Wildlife & Biodiversity

Olive Ridley ‘arribada’ at Odisha’s Gahiramatha ends

407,194 turtles laid eggs in the marine sanctuary from 14-21 March, 2020

 
By Ashis Senapati
Last Updated: Wednesday 01 April 2020
Olive Ridley turtles in Gahiramatha. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles have finished their eight-day-long ‘arribada’ or nesting on Nasi-1 and Nasi- 2 islands at the Gahiramatha marine sanctuary in Odisha.

Around 4,07,194 turtles laid eggs from 14-21 March, 2020, in the sanctuary that is known as the world's largest rookery of sea turtles and is located within the Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district.

“The female turtles take about 20 years to sexually mature and produce eggs. We hope that one reason we are seeing this increase is because the baby turtles that were born on this same beach two decades back, are now old enough to come back and lay their eggs,” Bikash Ranjan Dash, the divisional forest officer of the park, said.

Each year, adult females crawl from the surf of the Bay of Bengal onto Gahiramatha to dig nests for their ping-pong ball sized eggs.

Dash said:

  • 413,334 turtles laid eggs in 2015
  • 51,995 in 2016
  • 668,055 in 2017
  • 665,185 in 2018
  • 451,648 in 2019
  • In 2014, the animals skipped Gahirmatha while in 2000, a record 711,500 turtles laid eggs in Gahiramatha.

The forest department has cordoned off the nesting beaches of Nasi-1 and Nasi-2 with fences to protect the eggs from the depredations of feral dogs, jackals, wild boars and other predators, Dash added.

“We have also deployed forest guards for the same purpose. Hatchlings will emerge from these eggs after 45 days and find their way to the sea,” Dash said.

Every year, fishing activities inside Gahiramatha are banned by the state government between November 1 and May 31 to protect turtles.

The rookery at Gahiramatha, covering 1,435 square kilometres from Dhamara mouth to Hukitola island, was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997 by the government to protect the endangered turtles.

Olive Ridleys are protected under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, as a Schedule I species, Hemant Rout, an environmentalist and secretary of Gahiramatha Marine Turtles and Mangrove Conservation Society, said.

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